The New England Patriots began the long march toward a respectable pass defense with their trade deadline acquisition of former Tampa Bay CB Aqib Talib. But a return to the Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy days of yore is a ways off for this Pats secondary. New England still lacks an elite defensive back—especially if Talib departs via free agency this offseason—and there are some viable options available in the 2013 draft.
The Patriots generally employ a base 4-3, Cover 1 man-free or Cover 2 deep zone. They like to play their corners in man coverage on the outsides, with safety support over the top. They're also in sub-packages over half the time on the field, with at least one extra defensive back.
For New England's defensive philosophy to work, they'll need corners who can play shuffle, or press-man, coverage to throw off timing patterns.
With adequate safety help in the deep third, the Pats don't necessarily need top-end burners defending the sidelines. They do need big, physical corners who can gain inside leverage on receivers and won't "open the gate" by turning their hips when they line up in press.
As for the safety position, the Patriots don't typically use the traditional FS/SS split in the deep middle (though I argued in my recent article on the Pats secondary that they should, at least this year). They like to split the field up the middle and give each safety responsibility for their half.
To that end, they'll need two-way players with experience in zone coverage, the instincts to read the QB's eyes and close on the ball and the strength and toughness to play the box and stuff the run.
Let's take a look at five college DBs who can become elite players in New England's system. Keep in mind, these are players who could realistically be available when the Patriots draft. Apologies to Eric Reid and DeMarcus Milliner who should be top-20 picks.